Has the Pandemic Derailed the Diversity Agenda?
The need to ensure diversity and inclusion (D&I) in the workplace is recognised as a pressing issueby organisations all over the world. Tadiwanashe Mandivenga explores D&I progression across a range of industries
The conversation surrounding diversity and inclusion (D&I) in the workplace has been a hot topic for many years but is now increasing in importance and urgency. Organisations all over the world are building this into their strategies and investing more resources into ensuring that their employees accurately represent the people they serve and that the environment they work in is inclusive. The pandemic was predicted to disproportionately affect minorities as organisations responded to the crisis by going into survival mode and focusing on simply getting through the pandemic, resulting in D&I falling to the wayside on the list of priorities. In Africa, however, we can see some progress being made in this area as organisations are starting to understand the importance of it and see the benefits that come along with it - even during a global pandemic.
Here are some insights into D&I within different industries...
According to Bess Skosana, General Manager and Regional Talent Leader at MTN, the telecommunication industry is one of the leading industries when it comes to diversity. She goes on to give some examples of women in leadership positions within the organisation, namely the group CFO and Vice President for the SEA region. In addition, women are said to make up 38% of MTN’s workforce. She also mentions that they have plans in place to hire more differently abled people into the organisation.
Progress is also slowly being made in the tech. industry. Philip Sakwa, Group Head of HR at CSquared tells us that he encourages all of his line managers to avoid having biases towards people who are differently abled and instead, find ways to be more welcoming of them. He goes on to describe how CSquared has modified all of their offices to be inclusive for different groups of people to make sure that they feel welcomed, valued and can do their jobs effectively.
Pai Gamde, Chief Talent Officer at Coronation Group tells us of positive changes being made within the financial sector. She attributes this to regulatory requirements and commitment to sustainability goals put in place to ensure that organisations have a certain number of womenon boards, in management positions and the total workforce. Despite progress with gender balance, more needs to be done with regards to practices around inclusion, because quotas do not automatically translate into inclusion.
Unlike other industries, manufacturing is a sector in which it is usually challenging to attract and retain women and differently abled people due to the “hard” or “industrial manufacturing” environment, says Jacqueline Wanyama, Chief HR Officer at Safal Group. Although their female representation at the senior leadership level is not too far off global benchmarks at nearly 22%, it is their mission to increase the number as well as the amount of representation in the entry-level pipeline and they are doing the necessary research to understand what needs to be done to retain diverse talent.
The above indicates a positive movement towards increased diversity and inclusion within the workplace. Phil Andrews, CEO of FieldReady, echoes this, saying that more companies that operate in industries which are traditionally seen as male dominated are asking for female engineers and technicians. He believes that bringing in more women in the coming years will positively impact the way workforces organise themselves while also providing role models for the younger generation of girls who want to be technologists, computer scientists and other roles that were usually considered the domain of men in the past.
In conclusion, as Dr Jerry Gule, CEO of IPM correctly points out, diversity, inclusion, equity and justice is not something that begins in the workplace – it starts at home, with the language we use and the attitudes we have towards people from different groups. We have to make a conscious effort to be inclusive and not have biases towards other people in our personal lives in order to influence others around us to do the same and reflect this in the workplace. While progress is being made, there is still a long road ahead, but though the pandemic may have negatively impacted minorities more, there has been more focus and resources put in place to embed D&I into organisational structures, which is a step in the right direction.